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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 30299
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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Similar symptoms as the one I am reading about. We got our

Customer Question

Similar symptoms as the one I am reading about. We got our dog from the shelter 8 years ago. He is approximately 12 years old. Always been the best dog we have ever had! He has been slowing down and does have some arthritis. We have been giving him glucosamine in his food every day trying to avoid giving him chemicals at this point. When we adopted him he had heartworm, which we treated him for. Just this week he has started waking me up around midnight, panting heavily. He is restless, bumps against the side of the bed and paces. He even jumps up with his paws and pants and stares at me. This is NOT normal for him. He never has been a dog that sleeps on the bed. He loves to sleep near us on the floor but NEVER gets up at all at night. In fact, if I sleep until 10 he will wait until I get up and never others either of us! So this is a drastic difference for him. I have tried everything to calm him. I took him to our vet and he said he had a little congestion he could hear and gave him a steroid shot and antibiotic. Said to try Benadryl to see if that calmed him. Nothing. Even with 3 benadryls, he still paces and pants and keeps up awake. He does pant some during the day, and is a bit more clingy than normal, but the nighttime is the worst. I don't want to put him through a bunch of tests as he hates the vet, but I don't want him to be hurting either....but I have not had a good nights sleep in 8 days and I am at wits end.....
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Expert will know how to help the dog. What is the dog's name?
Customer: Not lethargy.....his name is*****: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Shep?
Customer: othing I can think of
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 months ago.

You're speaking to Dr. Michael Salkin. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm currently typing up my reply. Please be patient. This may take a few minutes.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 months ago.

You appear to be describing sundowners syndrome - a form of cognitive dysfunction in dogs and humans. It's conjectured that the dark and quiet of night magnifies the sensory loss in these patients which results in their anxiety and subsequent aimless wandering. Other indications of cognitive dysfunction include disorientation, changes in social and interactive behavior - becoming "needier" or, conversely, more aloof - changes in locomotor and sleep cycle behaviors, and loss of housetraining.

Unfortunately, this is a progressive disorder and often vexes caretakers unable to control inappropriate behavior. If additional medical problems exist - brain tumor, e.g. - seizures may arise and prompt the need for anticonvulsant drugs. You may find that a prescription benzodiazepine such as alprazolam (Xanax) will be helpful for controlling his anxiety, panting, and pacing and so discussing the use of such a psychotherapeutic drug should be discussed with his vet.

Ancillary care involves physically and mentally stimulating exercises such as swimming, massage, and range of motion exercises, encouraging relaxation, ensuring that he is taken out frequently to minimize the cost of elimination "mistakes", encouraging reestablishment of daily cycles by feeding at regular hours and at least a few hours before bedtime, and administering the alprazolam before bed. Specialized diets rich in antioxidants may be of value such as Hill's Prescription Diet b/d. The monoamine oxidase inhibitor selegiline (Anipryl) is the only drug licensed for use for the treatment of canine cognitive dysfunction in the States. Many of us aren't impressed with the studies supporting its use, however.

Cognitive dysfunction in dogs is just as difficult to manage as is Altzheimer's in humans. I wish I had some magic for him. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.